NYCC 09: Returning to Wolfenstein (why?)

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It's been 8 years since the release of the last real Wolfenstein game. After seeing Wolfenstein last week at an Activision event, we wonder if there's any reason to revisit the franchise.

There's a fine line between "classic" and "dated," and Wolfenstein finds itself on the wrong side of the fence. Fighting Nazis was a novel idea back in the series' prime, but it has since become a tired idea. At first glance, Wolfenstein can only be described as generic. A FPS that has you crawling through World War II shooting Nazis? After dozens of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games, to call the era overused would be an understatement.

Gameplay and setting aren't the only things dated about Wolfenstein. The visuals are lackluster, undoubtedly hindered by the aging idTech 4 engine (Doom 3 engine). We couldn't help but notice how poor the texture work was and how uninspired the levels looked through the entirety of the hands-off demonstration. Although the visuals were rather bland, we were taken aback by the shoddy framerate. Yes, the game still has quite a bit of development left ahead of it, but this early look certainly didn't give us much confidence.
The core shooting mechanics don't look fun either. Where's the visceral combat? Where's cover? Where's the intelligent enemy AI that tracks you down? Enemies were standing targets, never moving close for the kill, or running away from dangerous explosives. This is unacceptable in an era where games like Killzone and Halo have raised the bar so high.

Wolfenstein games have always injected a bit of sci-fi into the mix, and this iteration follows suit. Players have the ability to enter the "Veil"-- an alternate spirit world that sits atop our own -- at any time. With a press of a button, players will be able to see into the Veil and find new paths, new creatures and spirits, and enemy weak points. It's a similar concept to Metroid Prime 2's Dark Aether, although there are seemingly no consequences for entering the Veil. Players will also receive other powers, depending on their spiritual energy, such as the ability to slow down time. The use of powers didn't seem very well integrated into the combat, making Wolfenstein look more like a "F.E.A.R lite" than a substantial FPS.

The Wolfenstein presentation didn't exactly demonstrate why any aspect of the game, including the Veil, should be taken with interest. However, as gimmicky as it may be, the Veil certainly has the most potential to greatly expand the depth and define the unique hook of the game. For now, Wolfenstein is simply a dated shooter with graphics and gameplay that gamers have long outgrown.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.